Q and A: 5 smart answers to common tech questions

Facebook steals your password?

Q. I signed up for Facebook and it asked for my email password so it could invite my friends. Is this some sort of scam?

A. Not a scam, but definitely not a good idea. Most social media sites -- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. -- will do this. Essentially, you log into your email address and the site scans your contacts for people with profiles. If it finds any, you can add them automatically. You can invite the people it doesn't find to the site, too. It sounds like a nice idea and most sites claim that they won't store your email. However, hackers are working around the clock to hack popular sites like this every day. You definitely don't want them finding the password to your email in some long-lost bit of code.

Turn your computer into a video recorder

Q. I'm going to cancel my cable subscription, but I don't want to lose my DVR. Is there any way to turn my computer into a DVR?

A. It's actually easy. You just need a TV tuner card. It's about $60 for one that plugs into USB and $30 for one you install internally. Make sure it supports ATSC for over-the-air broadcasts and ClearQAM for cable. Many TV tuner cards come with their own software. You can also use Next PVR , MythTV or XBMC. Then just plug your computer into your TV. Make sure the computer you use works with DVI or HDMI, and that your TV supports one of those. The computer should have about 2 or 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB of hard drive space to record everything. A portable drive is a good investment if you plan on keeping a lot of HD movies.

Back up your email

Q. I'm worried about losing any emails if I go over my email's storage limit. Is there any way to back up email?

A. Most email services have big storage limits, so you shouldn't worry about that too much. You're probably better off just organizing your email into new folders to keep it from clogging up your inbox. If you're really set on backing it up to your computer, it's possible. Outlook and the free alternative Thunderbird both have a built-in backup feature. KLS Mail Backup is a great third-party option, too. If you want a service to do it for you, they exist. Just expect to pay a few bucks a month or year.

Is filing taxes online safe?

Q. I've never filed taxes online, but my friends tell me it's quicker. Is it safe?

A. As long as you practice normal online security habits - anti-virus software, watching out for scam sites - it's very safe. Just go to the IRS' Free File site. Here, you can choose "Use Free File Fillable Forms" to do things yourself. If you want some help, choose "Pick a Free File Company" to fill it out on sites like TurboTax, H&R Block and more. These sites will try to upgrade you to non-free versions, but you shouldn't have to bother. If you want to file your state for free, check this list on the IRS's site for states that allow it. Once you've filed, track your return with the IRS' official app.

Who owns your digital movies?

Q. I read in Amazon's terms of use that I don't really own the movies I pay for there. So, what happens if I cancel my Amazon Prime subscription? Do I lose access to those movies?

A. If you've bought the movies from Amazon, you don't technically own them - Amazon grants you a license to watch them. However, Amazon doesn't revoke that license if you cancel your Prime subscription. Plus, movie purchases aren't technically a part of Prime. You will lose access to any movies or TV shows you stream from Amazon Prime, though. Those are exclusive to Prime membership. You will lose any movies you've stored in Amazon's Cloud Drive, too. You can use store them in another cloud storage service to keep them off of your hard drive, if you want.

Copyright 2013, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit: www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free email newsletters, sign-up at: www.komando.com/newsletters.